Nephrite of pebble material; very well hollowed, with a recessed foot 17401850 Height: 7.42 cm Mouth/lip: 0.71/2.33 and 2.21 cm (one area of the circle flattened) Stopper: jadeite; gilt-silver collar
Condition: some small scratches and wear in the surface from use; otherwise, workshop condition
Provenance: Christie's, Hong Kong, 1 October 1991, lot 1262 Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (Hong Kong, 1993)
Published: Treasury 1, no. 9
We have already discussed at some length the broad group of often very exciting bottles from which this comes and noted a reference to them by Zhao Zhiqian in the 1860s (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, p. 98, but also see discussion under Sale 3, lot 82). Two additional stunning examples from the Edith Griswold Collection are illustrated by Perry 1960, nos. 88 and 89.
This is one of the more unusual and exciting examples from the group. The skin of the pebble was obviously covered with undulating, well smoothed depressions, but it was large enough to produce one relatively flat face that remained completely and evenly covered with skin (if roughly spherical, the original stone must have had a radius of some two to three feet). As the craftsman ground away the higher areas of the skin to make a relatively flat surface, those areas took on a paler colour as the core material came close to being exposed, while the lower areas, where less skin was removed, retained the darkest colour. Some of the darker patches are still very slightly indented, giving a pleasant texture to the otherwise flat surface and suggesting that the artist, having taken the skin down to this level, decided to sacrifice a perfectly flat surface for a far more intriguing one in terms of colour and texture. Another half millimetre or so, which would have evened out the slight depressions, would also have removed the paler orange-russet skin that creates such a powerful visual matrix for the darker markings.
This bottle is also powerful formally. It is thicker than most of the group, allowing a more generous feeling and, therefore, greater presence, but it also shares with the extraordinary example in the J & J Collection (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 41) a bulging curve to the side profile. Here it is confined to one face, but that is quite enough to give an air of solid importance to the form, as if it were so confident of its capacity as sculpture that it had thrown out its chest proudly.